Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Swine Flu Vacation

Just as I was getting settled into a regular schedule of classes, private lessons with Hallah Moustafa, and homework the Egyptian government decided to clamp down on the foreign colleges that were open. Apparently all the colleges were supposed to be delayed several weeks in opening because of swine flu, but AUC ignored them at first and now we have had a two-week vacation. This has resulted in general insanity, traveling, and chaos meaning that I haven't exactly felt like sitting down and blogging much.

I suppose it's a good idea in theory to keep people from congregating in a university to reduce the chances of swine flu...but seriously? Every. Single. AUC Student. Is. Going. To. Travel. Did the government and AUC not consider this at all? Not only does that mean they will not be reducing their risks of bringing back the flu to AUC, but that if they have it and don't know yet (or don't care) they'll be spreading it around the country or the world depending how far afield they go. Add that fact to two weeks without Arabic lessons and the disruption of my gear-change back to college mode from lazy-ass-sitting-around-Cairo-all-summer mode and I was PISSED.

Therefore the day they told us, I decided to host an iftar at my house.

Dinner Party
Remember in my last entry the not-so-hot state of my cooking skills? Well, for some reason that I think may be related to being incredibly angry over the vacation, I decided to invite some people over for Iftar or breakfast despite not really having cooked for other people in my life. During Ramadan you have Iftar right at sunset when you break your fast for the day, and things had worked out that I had attended only one here during Ramadan so I figured I would have my own.

Another AUC study abroad student invited me to her place and I was unable to attend, so I invited her and her room mates over, so that was three people. Tim was of course invited, along with Autumn and Carolyn's friend Andrew. I ran into a friend from Economics class at AUC that day who was just as distressed about the vacation as me, and wasn't sure what to do with himself so I invited him and his friend over too. I texted Ramy on the way home, who inquired in disbelief if I was cooking or ordering food before he said he would come straight from work to help me cook. Add me and my roomies and suddenly I was hosting an 11-person dinner. Whoops! Oh well!

I did a massive grocery shopping trip on the way home, which is a major feat here as we live a couple blocks from the grocery store and thus insist on just carrying everything home instead of having it delivered. It can get to be very heavy, sweaty work in 90 degree heat. I forgot a few items, including dates and milk for the traditional style of breaking the fast, so I was leaving to go out again when I ran into Ramy on the steps of my building carrying a bag. What was in the bag? Oh, dates and milk of course! That boy seriously does read my mind on occasion.

All things considered it went great, but I couldn't have done it without Autumn, Carolyn, and Ramy traipsing in and out of the kitchen to lend many helping hands. Dinner was served slightly late, the ma7shy wasn't quite great, but everything else seemed like it was tasty and we rounded off the evening eating chocolate chip cookies while everyone figured out where they were going for break.

Having just ordered a $900 costume from Hallah Moustafa I resolved to remain in Cairo and save my cash, so I politely listened to these vacation plans until it got too frustrating and went to clean up the plates and the kitchen. The rest day I woke up to a deserted apartment as my roomies had headed out to Jordan.

Sharm El Sheikh
Well, okay I meant not to go on vacation and spend money...buuut...after being bored in Cairo for a week I was worn down enough to be convinced to go along with my roomies to Sharm for the weekend and stay in the five-star comfort of the Sheraton resort there for Carolyn's birthday. Hats off to my mother for this one for helping me out financially a bit so that I was persuaded to go! I am so, so glad I did go because it was beautiful, relaxing, and considerably better than tromping around the apartment for a few days and bitching at my boyfriend on the phone about how I was bored!

The place had like 8 swimming pools, several of which have their own swim-up bars. I never knew I particularly liked swim-up bars until this trip, but then I went nuts on them! There's something about sipping a mojito not just beside the pool but IN the pool that tickles my fancy I guess!

Staying in Sharm was well...like being at a resort. We swam in the ocean, then laid on the beach in chaise lounges, then migrated to the main pool, then the lower main pool, then the pool bar, then the poolside restaurant, then one of the other pools with a cave and a waterfall (and a bar!) then one of the five-star restaurants...rise, repeat pretty much. The Sheraton was gorgeous, and really an unusual design for a hotel. The thing is sort of situated on a shallow cliff above the sea, so the hotel lobby sits on the cliff, and is wrapped around a man-made grotto in the center rimmed with a network of wooden walkways and pavillions--it really is totally cool! What confused us is that because the lobby sits on the cliff (along with the resort areas and villas which make the complex soooo huge), you go downstairs to go to your rooms, which line the facing of the cliff down to the beach level. It's a neat and unusual design that I found very refreshing, because in Cairo the hotels simply go UP, because they have nowhere else to go!

I was shocked at how much everything looked like Hawaii there, and am pretty sure everyone got sick of my remarks to that point. It seriously weirded me out though, because even the plants looked straight out of Hawaii, not to mention the beautiful tropical fish we observed in the sea! Here we are, on the Red Sea on the other side of the world from Hawaii and I was so surprised to see fish that looked exactly like the rainbow, iridescent, fuscia-faced fish I had seen as a child in Honolulu! There were a few different varieties hanging out in the shallows at the beach, forming a swirling treasure trove of color that got close but not quite close enough for Ramy to grab one like he wanted.

Ramy and I grudgingly returned to Cairo from our lovely weekend outing a couple days ago so that he and I could go back to work, and yesterday my roomies arrived back after visiting Mt. Sinai which apparently was great.

I probably have more to say and update since my last post, but I have to write a couple things for Gilded Serpent so it's over and out for now--stay tuned!

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